Migrating from GMail to the new Outlook.com

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UPDATE: As if an upcoming “Google Take-Out” feature wasn’t enough, literally the same day I posted this Microsoft introduced a GMail import tool. Comments on an Engadget article announcing the feature indicated problems importing large mailboxes (~20GB), however it seems that Microsoft is listening, and willing to help. Microsoft has never specified a size of Outlook.com’s mailboxes, simply calling them “virtually unlimited.”

Original post:
Rumor has it that Google is about to create a new “Google Take-Out” feature for Gmail, allowing you to export your mail, contacts, and calendar entries from Google’s email service. That didn’t exist when I moved from Google Apps to a custom Outlook.com domain several months ago. Here is what I did.

First, for calendar items, I simply exported my Google Calendar to an ICS, then imported it to Outlook.com.

Contacts were just as simple, Outlook.com can link accounts and Sync contacts, or, once again, you can export a CSV of your contacts (using Outlook CSV Format), then in Outlook.com, bring down the menu from the top, go to People, then click “Manage” and then “Import from File.”

Exporting Contacts

Importing Contacts

The mail was the tricky part. I cheated a little on this one, since there is no “import .PST” or any similar feature in Outlook.com at this time. So how did I manage to bring all of my email from my Gmail Account to my Outlook.com account? I used the desktop “Outlook 2010” application included in my Office 2010 installation. You may not have access to this, so I believe it can be done using the new Windows 8 Mail Client, if you’re using Windows 8, or really any other mail client that supports ActiveSync (Exchange) connections. Let me provide a little more detail:

First, I created a new profile in Outlook 2010, using my Google Apps account and let it sync (use m.google.com as the server name, even if you have Google Apps for a custom domain, your username is just your full email address). I configured it to Sync “all folders” not just the inbox, and not just the last two weeks, etc… it took a little time to download all of my mail in to the Outlook 2010 client. Under the same profile, I added an additional account: my newly created Outlook.com account (autodiscover.outlook.com should work if you need to specify a server, but the Windows mail client / Outlook application will likely “autodetect” this for you). Since this was brand new, there was nothing to Sync. In Outlook 2010, on the left side, I created new subfolders under my Outlook.com account to match those under the Gmail account. I then simply “dragged and dropped” from the Gmail account’s folders, to the Outlook.com account’s folders. This moved mail two fold: the active sync process would take over and automatically REMOVE items from the Gmail server, effectively cleaning out my Gmail account, while at the same time uploading from my Outlook 2010 client to my Outlook.com account.

ProTip: If both accounts are configured for “Cached Exchange Mode” in Outlook 2010, set your client to Offline mode, drag and drop the files to the desired folders, then switch it back to online mode, then let it set (preferably overnight). This will move everything at one time once the client is back “online” rather than trying to do one folder at a time while you’re actively connected.

If you’re changing your email address, don’t forget to configure auto-forwarding or at least an “out-of-office” auto-responder in your Gmail account. If you’re moving custom domains, all you need to do at this point is update your MXRecords! ProTip: if your MXRecords are set to 1 week, you should reduce them in your domain registrar to a 1 hour TTL, wait a week, THEN make the cut-over to Outlook.com – otherwise you will need to remember to periodically check your Gmail account until at least 1 week after you’ve made the MXRecord change, as some other mail servers out there in the global DNS won’t update as quickly as you would like them to!

Next week, we’ll have an article on configuring a custom domain using Outlook.com mail, similar to having Google Apps for your own domain. For those tech savvy enough, you can try it before our guide is ready, by simply going to domains.live.com.